BYU football: Cougars officially begin preparing for Washington State
PROVO — Preparation for Washington State has begun in earnest.
BYU's Tuesday practice marked the first involving scout teams, which help the first-team offense and first-team defense get ready for the season-opener on Aug. 30.
It was a physical session, according to coach Bronco Mendenhall, who explained that the first-team defense was "basically tackling every play, which is how they train all year, other than fall camp. They got plenty of physical work."
Sophomore Ammon Olsen is serving as the scout team quarterback. Meanwhile, several other newcomers are not part of the scout team, which means they could play this season. Those players include cornerback Micah Hannemann, defensive lineman Jherremya Leuta-Douyere, running back Jamaal Williams and wide receiver Dylan Collie, according to Mendenhall.
"None of those are determined all the way yet, but if I had to lean, it would be those four," the coach said.
Mendenhall added that freshman defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi could see action this season.
INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: Freshman linebacker Kevan Bills underwent season-ending surgery on his knee Tuesday morning. Bills suffered a torn ACL last week in practice.
Meanwhile, defensive back Cameron Comer has decided to leave the team. He was replaced on the 105-man roster by senior Robbie Buckner, who did not participate in fall camp due to an offseason surgery.
NICKEL PACKAGE: Mendenhall acknowledged that the Cougars will likely play "nickel," or five defensive backs, against pass-happy Washington State.
"They have a lot of good athletes playing at the same time," he said. "I think it would be good to match some speed and athleticism."
FACING LEACH: During his time as defensive coordinator at New Mexico, Mendenhall faced Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense when Leach was at Texas Tech.
"I have a good understanding of what this system is and what they do. That doesn't make it easier to stop," Mendenhall said. "I have a really nice idea. We played them two or three or four times at New Mexico. So that helped, and having (former) coach (Robert) Anae here certainly helped. I don't think it's a matter of teams not knowing what they're going to do, it's just the concepts are really well-established and well-thought out, and it's hard to stop."
OH WHAT A FEELING: Punter Riley Stephenson said when he lets loose on a great punt that pins the opposing team deep in its own territory, the feeling is similar to what an offensive player feels when he scores a touchdown.
"When you're back there, 15 yards from everybody, and you're deep in your own territory, kicking it out and watching that returner and seeing our guys just crush him is one of the best feelings ever," Stephenson said. "We know we've got them inside the 20. It helps our defense to go smash them in the mouth."
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